Sydney has a long history of female impersonators. It was through the camp night spots in the early 60s, that a new wave of drag performers first emerged.

Entry to the job market often entailed a talent quest, and Ayesha tells how she got a job at Dawn O’Donnell’s “Karen’s Castle”.

There was a divide between the professionally produced drag show seen at the Jewel Box, Les Girls, Kandy’s Garden of Eden, the Purple Onion, Ivy’s Birdcage etc and the fun shows put on at the social group dances and balls. Ian Maclean describes what he saw when he was a DJ at the Chameleons.

Colin Wiseman recalls Boomerangs shows and Sue-Ellen talks generally about Pollynesian productions.




With professional choreographers and dancers from the Tivoli circuit teaching young drag artists, and inspired producer/entrepreneurs creating hilarious routines and shows with a narrative, Sydney siders were treated to the best shows in town.

David (Beatrice) Williams describes one of his shows at the Purple Onion.



Liberation Art

The gay movement was focussed on both social and personal change – the personal is political. Its publications featured poems and illustrations by emerging gay and lesbian artists. These were affirming an identity which was only just emerging.

Anton Veenstra describes tentative steps taken by Sydney Gay Liberation to create a new art.




Sydney’s gay movement did not have access to a body of literature. Lynn Thomas, and Dianne Minnis found very little available when they were coming out, but things changed by the late 70s.

Along with commercial and community newspapers, detailed journals appeared. Gay Information was a series of publications which in the 70s and 80s that discussed ideas and issues within the gay movement. Mark Matheson looks back at these publications.

Also, in this period, independent authors like Ian MacNeill based their novels on the gay experience.



Lesbian Music

Lesbian performers and bands were nurtured by the gay movement’s dances and conferences in a world where straight men and the disco machine often dominated.

Ludo McFerran talks about the band she performed in - The Stray Dags, and The Women’s Warehouse Project.




The Gay Liberation Quire and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence entertained and energised gay movement events in the 1980s.

Fabian LoSchiavo tells how the San Franciscan model of the Sisters was transformed by the Sydney Order.



Lesbian Fashion

The fashion adopted by Lesbian Feminists was a code which signified a break with patriarchy. Chris Pearce tells what it all meant.